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Have no doubt that global, national, and even local level catastrophes should have a profound effect on your marketing thinking. But in different ways than you probably think!

For twenty years, Onstage has been providing luxury-level advertising across the US. We’ve been here through US tragedies and crises like the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the Housing Market & Stock Market Crash of 2008 and widespread weather crises like the 2015 – 2016 Winter Storm Goliath, to name a few.

Yes, your advertising during a crisis needs to be thoughtful. A genuine crisis may even be cause for a total re-brand. But if you learn one thing from the internet today, let it be this: don’t pull your ad budget during a crisis. Now is the time to go all in. But let’s pause that thought for a moment, and take a look at marketing messages as they related to the current novel Coronavirus situation in the US.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Pulls “Finger-Lickin’ Good” Ads During 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

KFC pulled advertising that encouraged finger-licking as of 3/12/2020 – and that makes good sense! US consumers are hyper-aware of hygiene, hand washing, and sterilization. Nothing would be a bigger turn-off to consumers right now than the idea of licking their fingers. We’ll call this the “Eww factor.”

We’re marketing masters at Onstage, not doctors. So we’re not here to talk about fatality rates or communicability of COVD-19. What matters to us is that US consumers are behaving in a remarkably different way. And while news media likes to tout this as “the new normal,” we’ve been around this block enough to believe strongly that things will settle back down in a month or two.

Which means that savvy marketing professionals are:

  • Reviewing their campaigns to pull anything that could give consumers the “Eww factor.”
  • Doubling-down on messages relating to health, safety, cleanliness, hygiene, insurance, etc.
  • Jumping in fast when advertising sales reps call with special prices and deals.

The past few years have been excellent for US businesses, and we’ve blogged about that a lot. We’re thrilled that so many small businesses have sprung up! However, young organizations and inexperienced marketing staff might not realize just how “low it can go” and how challenging it can be to do business during a wobbly economy and unusual consumer behavior.

In an effort to maintain their bottom line, many of these young businesses will pull their ad budget in part or in whole. And that will be a fatal mistake.

As Hard As It Sounds, Now is the Time to Boost Your Marketing Budget

Young organizations that reduce their marketing budgets during a crisis are very likely to fail. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published some excellent reading on the topic, back in 2009, right after the housing market crash. Those were tough years for business.

  • We’ll summarize HBR’s research to say that during an economic downturn, all segments become more selective about their spending. No major revelations there!
  • The businesses that ride out the storm are the ones who adjust their message accordingly and PUSH IT, while their competitors shrink back into the shadows.

We realize that budgeting can be tough during a slowdown, especially this early in the year. It probably feels like you were just getting comfortable with your 2020 goals and budgets.

Your Advertising Budget is the Last Place to Cut Funds During a Crisis

If your business is going to survive a genuine crisis, you need to look at every little nook and cranny for cutting back. Inexperienced marketers may think their marketing budget is a no-brainer, but that thinking will be their fatal error. Tightening up cost-cutting in other areas so that your marketing budget gets impacted as little as possible will make your company come out of any crisis stronger. Marketing during a crisis becomes the defining moment for businesses.

We’re All In This Together

Remember, we’re all in this together! There is a ton of advice, news, blog posts, social posts, etc. out there that will drive anyone crazy and make anyone think the world if coming to an end. Obviously, our advice is easier said than done. But if you truly believe in the American way, we will get through this crisis just as we have every other crisis before!

We appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read our marketing blogs during these interesting times. We certainly enjoy writing them. If you’d like to learn more about re-branding during a crisis, or advertising to the most affluent of consumers, reach out to us today! We’d love to hear from you.

Related Reading & Resources:

Campaign US: Advertising is in Crisis, But it’s Not Because it Doesn’t Work

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